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Film / Sleepwalkers

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An odd little 1992 film based on an unpublished book by Stephen King, Sleepwalkers follows the story of Charles Brady (Brian Krause), and his mother Mary (Alice Krige), a pair of soul sucking cat demons called Sleepwalkers. The Sleepwalkers have apparently incredible powers of illusion, but are critically weak to ordinary housecats.

The titular Sleepwalkers move into the town of Travis, Indiana, and try to find a virgin to suck the life out of. Charles starts trying to seduce Tanya (Mädchen Amick), who is apparently a virgin. Their relationship goes a little south, when he tries to suck her soul on the first date, and a police officer shows up with a cat named Clovis that instantly detects Charles as something inhuman. Charles murders the officer after being wounded by Clovis before fleeing, and his mother begins a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. There are a few random car chases and murders to round out the movie.

It's also notable for being Stephen King's first collaboration with director Mick Garris.

This film contains examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Charles' struggle with his feelings for Tanya and potentially wishing to be more 'human' at heart is cut rather short with him becoming a generic, over the top slasher villain complete with sadism and bad puns.
  • Abusive Parents: Mary becomes more verbally and physically abusive to her son Charles as she is starving and he has to get her the virginal life force she needs. After Charles fails to get his mother the virginal life force a second time, Mary snaps, chastises him and slaps him and hits him continually until she sees his hand wound.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Mary gets a rather depressing sendoff, despite all the terrible things she's done.
    Mary: (while burning alive) You killed my son! My only son!
  • An Arm and a Leg: When Mr Fallows tries to blackmail Charles, Charles' immediate response is to literally tear the teacher's hand off.
  • Asshole Victim: Mr. Fallows, who tries to extort sexual favors from Charles, outright groping him, in exchange for not revealing that his school records are false.
  • Author Appeal: Can you tell that Stephen King is a cat lover?
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • When Mary is introduced to Tanya, she is holding a pair of scissors dangerously close to Tanya...which she uses to cut a rose stem to place in Tanya's hair.
    • When Charles and Tanya playfully fall into the graveyard together, it seems as though they're going to consummate their growing attraction together for the first time. They kiss again...only for Charles to reveal his true self to Tanya as he attempts to start sucking her soul out.
  • Becoming the Mask: Subverted. At first it seems that Charles had genuinely developed feelings for his latest victim Tanya. Only it turns out that was all a ploy to get closer to her and devour her soul .
  • Betty and Veronica: Tanya is the Betty and Mary is the Veronica to Charles's Archie. Ultimately the Veronica wins.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Clovis the cat assembles a massive cat army and arrives to destroy the Sleepwalkers.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Sleepwalkers are dead, and Tanya and Clovis have survived the day. However, Tanya's parents are presumed dead and multiple cops have been killed during Mary's rampage.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: How Charles and Mary see their murderous rampage. They're just feeding on the souls of virgin girls (usually tweens or children) to stay alive.
  • Booby Trap: The Brady house is surrounded by bear traps to keep the cats at bay.
  • The Cameo: Mark Hamill shows up as a cop on the opening, Clive Barker and Tobe Hooper as a pair of forensic techs, and John Landis and Joe Dante as some technicians.
  • Cats Are Mean: Well, cat demons are; regular cats are the heroes.
  • Cat Scare: Every possible sense of the phrase gets used at some point or another.
  • The Cavalry: Just when things look their worst, we get a shot of Clovis leading an army of cats to the Brady house in slow motion!
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Mary Brady becomes this, due to her son's crush on Tanya.
  • Competence Zone: You know you're in trouble when a movie's competence zone is restricted to cats... To be fair to the human cast, the Sleepwalkers seem to shrug off any injury not inflicted by a cat. Even a lost eye seems like an inconvenience.
  • Covers Always Lie: Those sinister-looking cats swarming that house on the cover are actually the heroes of the story.
  • Creator Cameo: Stephen King has a brief role as a cemetery groundskeeper who complains about the potential bad press he'll get.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The film follows Charles at first, until his role of antagonist is revealed. Tanya is the true protagonist.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Police cruisers explode spectacularly with one shot from a handgun. Who knew? Maybe it's somehow performed with Sleepwalkers' magic, of course.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: All cats hate the Sleepwalkers and can see them for what they are even when they're in human form. Clovis leads a small army of cats to swarm to their house and kill them.
  • Evil Teacher: Mr. Fallows, who tries to extort Charles. It doesn't end well for him.
  • Eye Scream: Tanya manages to gouge Charles' eyes on two different occasions.
  • Fingore: While pointing his finger at Mary in questioning for the recent catastrophes, the officer gets his fingers bitten off in a mouthful by Mary who then kills him by breaking his arm into a fatal compound fracture.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The abandoned house at the beginning of the film.
    • The "close" relationship between mother and son.
      Woman: God, I just hope nothing bad happened to them! They were so close!
    • The many rotting corpses of dead cats hanging from a tree.
    • The mummified corpse of a young girl lying in the closet.
    • The red rose in the first (of many) victim's hair.
    • The purple lighting coming from the bedroom window.
  • Gender-Restricted Ability: Only male Sleepwalkers can absorb the souls of virgins, the female Sleepwalkers need to be "fed" by the males through sexual intercourse.
    • Depending on how you view an ability, only the souls of female virgins are suitable for the Sleepwalkers.
  • Glamour Failure: You can see the Sleepwalkers' true forms in mirrors. This, and their method of feeding, can make them a bit Our Vampires Are Different. Also, cats can see right through their illusions.
  • Humans Are Useless: While Tanya manages a lot of eye-gouging on the monsters, the only named character who actually does anything useful is Clovis the cat. Sometimes it's just because the Sleepwalkers are supernatural monsters that can't be hurt by conventional means, but other times the humans are just making very dumb mistakes.
  • Idiot Ball: Sleepwalkers apparently need to keep themselves on the serious down-low...this doesn't stop Charles from going on insane joyrides and provoking the local cops completely needlessly.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice:
    • The sheriff gets body slammed on a picket fence.
    • One of the officers warning the police station over the phone gets impaled with an ear of corn into his back by Mary.
      Mary: (smiles evilly) No vegetables, no desserts. That's the rules.
  • Improvised Weapon: Mary kills a man by stabbing him with an ear of corn.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: One of the Sleepwalkers' notable abilities is to talk entirely in these during action sequences.
  • Invisibility: One of the Sleepwalkers' powers.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Between the sheriff’s department and the state troopers. It is All There in the Script how Sherrif Ira and Captain Soames don't like each other for personal reasons.
  • Large Ham: The Bradys. Though his mom chews the scenery, her hamminess rubbed off on Charles.
    Charles: Stop looking at me. Stop looking at me!!! Stop looking at me, you FUCKING CAT!!!!
  • Last of His Kind: Charles and Mary were apparently the last Sleepwalkers.
  • Kryptonite Factor: The Sleepwalkers. Get stabbed in the eye with a corkscrew? Barely worth noting. Get scratched enough times by ordinary housecats? Fucking explode!
  • Made of Explodium: Perhaps the best reason to see this film is for the scene where Mary bursts into flame from a cat attack.
  • Made of Iron: The Sleepwalkers can shrug off shotgun blasts and eye removal without any apparent ill effects. A house cat's claws and fangs, on the other hand, are basically kryptonite to them.
  • Mama Bear: The death toll goes way, way up after Charles is incapacitated and Mary gets angry.
  • The Mirror Shows Your True Self: We see the Sleepwalkers in three different forms: human, human with cat-like face, and something looking as an anthropomorphic, reptilian-skinned cat. The reflection in the mirror always shows them in the third form—presumably the true form with all illusions stripped.
  • Mugging the Monster: Mr. Fallows finds out that Charles' school records are faked, and he tries to extort him, only to end up getting his hand ripped off and eventually killed by Charles.
  • Murphy's Bullet: The film has a hilarious editing failure where a policeman is trying to shoot a woman but shoots the vase next to her and breaks it —and then he shoots and breaks the same vase again.
  • Nature Abhors a Virgin: Well, female virgins anyway...being a virginal girl makes you a target for the Sleepwalkers as their souls are their only form of sustenance.
  • Neck Snap: More like neck twist but yeah, one unfortunate cat attacking Mary gets grabbed and has its neck twisted like a towel before being thrown aside.
  • One-Winged Angel: While mirrors show their true forms, the two title characters shift to them late in the movie. Before then, they can partly shift their face to look more cat-like.
  • Parental Incest: Between the two Sleepwalkers, Mary and Charles. They are the last two of their kind though, apparently. Justified in-universe: early in the movie, Charles says 'But you need me to feed you, Mom.' Only male Sleepwalkers can absorb the souls that sustain them, which they then feed to the Female Sleepwalkers via sex. Since Charles and Mary are the only Sleepwalkers remaining...
  • Police Are Useless: It's either this or being a Small-Town Tyrant. The Sheriff and Clovis' owner being the exception.
  • Put Their Heads Together: Mary kills two cops by doing this repeatedly.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: When Charles gets hurt, Mary kills Tanya's parents and the town's entire police force.
  • Shout-Out: The hundreds of cats besieging the Brady house resemble The Birds more than a little.
  • Taking You with Me: The underlying purpose behind Mary's Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Mary cannot absorb a virgin's soul energy herself, she needs a Male Sleepwalker to feed it to her. With Charles dead, she's facing a slow death from starvation. Or a quick one in a blaze of 'glory' while taking out everyone who played a part in killing Charles and herself.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Mr. Fallows, who quickly deduces from Charles' false school records that he's hiding something. . . and tries to sexually blackmail him. Even if he couldn't have anticipated Charles killing him instantly, did he really not think he wouldn't in order to conceal his secret?
  • Tragic Monster: The movie tries to make the Bradys this. They're soul-devouring monsters, but they believe themsleves to be the Last of Their Kind and only have each other, and are unable to live normal lives. But between the fact that they aren't above murdering children coupled with how much they delight in killing people violently, it's difficult to sympathize with their plight.
  • The Tragic Rose: The Bradys always leave a rose placed in the hair of their virginal victims.
  • Van Helsing Hate Crimes: Charles' story indicates people persecuted and murdered the Sleepwalkers, hunting him and Mary for being 'different.' Probably has to do more with them murdering people and eating their souls, but...
  • Villainous Mother-Son Duo: Mary Brady and her son Charles Brady are Voluntary Shapeshifter monsters who perform Vampiric Draining of Life Energy from female human virgins. They work together to obtain victims so they can feed.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: Sleepwalkers eat the souls of virgins to survive.
  • Tagline: See the caption under the poster above. Notable for being completely false; Sleepwalkers eat the souls of virgins, not fear.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Housecats for the Sleepwalkers.
  • Would Hurt a Child: At one point, we see the corpse of Charles and Mary's previous victim, who's in elementary school. Given that they need female virgins, it makes sense that the majority of their victims would be under high school age.
  • You Killed My Father: Charles killed Andy, Clovis's cat-dad. Clovis assembles a cat army to destroy the Sleepwalkers in retribution.